I so enjoyed talking with Dr. Peter McGraw, a behavioral economist at the University of Colorado who is investigating solitude and how to create a remarkable single life, now or forever.
It’s kinda crazy. I have done many fantastic podcasts about being quirkyalone with women, and this was the first time I talked with a man who is investigating these topics!
Peter and I chatted about:
the problem of “internalized inferiority,” of seeing our single periods as lesser than our coupled periods and the tragedy of waiting to be coupled up to do the things you most want to do in life (I share about how I’ve struggled with this too)
my personal story behind quirkyalone, and why I chose that combination over, say, “freakyalone”!
quirkyalones in pop culture in the 90s and oughts, from Love Jones to Ally McBeal
how single people have been ignored–at least in the US–in policy discussions during the pandemic
why quirkyalone, even though it seems to be a celebration of singlehood, is also, in its deepest core, an argument for depth in relationship
the many ways people meet needs for connection in 2021, with everything from Tinder to solo poly
why I prefer to talk about self-acceptance and wholeness rather than being a “happy single.” Being happy all the time is just way too much pressure! And going for what we want in life may involve some pain, discomfort and struggle.
Here’s a little teaser before you click to listen in…
“The choice of the word quirky, why? Can you tease us with some of the alternatives that you considered?
In the book Quirkyalone, I have a bunch of alternatives like eccentricalone, bizarrealone, or freakyalone.
Freakyalone is a whole different book and it’s in a different section of the library. It’s not in the library, first of all.
Why quirky? It’s because quirky is softer, for one. It’s eccentric but with a human touch that makes you feel you can get warm and cuddly with a quirky person in a way that maybe you don’t feel you can with freakyalone. It was that sense that I had as a young person and has remained the same as I get older. I only connect with a certain amount of people. I’m not a generic person and quirkyalones are not cookie-cutter type. It’s a practical recognition for a quirky person.
It may take a little longer to find someone who matches you, not that they have to have all the same quirks. Everybody is completely individual and all of my work has this honoring of our quirkiness. When I work with clients, for example, I’m interested in finding out who they are and how they tick because everybody’s different. That’s my orientation to the world. The quirky part is the way of honoring that. I love that about us as people.”
“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”–Oscar Wilde
If mistakes are what teach us, I have made plenty. I’ve walked around for YEARS with limiting beliefs in my head (aka junk) that have kept me from more love, free-flowing creativity, money, and fun in my life. Over the last few years, I’ve been cleaning out my limiting beliefs and replacing them with more powerful, open beliefs. I want to help you do the same. We tend to have a lot of limiting beliefs about relationships and being single and in every area: work, family, creativity.
I’ve been talking about limiting beliefs lately because this is the crux of the work we do together in our Quirkytogether 101 class. We learn how to turn around limiting beliefs like:
— “I haven’t had enough relationship experience, so no one will want me” or
— “It hasn’t happened yet, so it’s not going to happen now,” or
— “There are no good men/women left or men/women who are quirky enough for me.”
We turn these into into beliefs that give us more power and possibility.
Today I will walk you through the steps of how to turn around a limiting belief. If you’re joining our QT101 class, this post is a warm-up. You can certainly do this on your own too. (It is easier and more fun with the support of two coaches and others who are doing the same thing.)
Step one: The Purge: Naming Our Limiting Beliefs
What is a limiting belief?
A belief is just a thought that we keep thinking. A thought becomes stuck, like a record that keeps playing the same note, and we assume it to be true. A thought becomes a belief merely because we have said it to ourselves so many times.Read More
I’ve been getting great questions from my readers as I start talking more about being quirkytogether. Questions open up a chance for dialogue and dialogue always helps us to learn more. If you have questions, bring them on!
they’re not lovers, they’re quirkytogethers, from my book Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics
Leslie shares: “I was very excited when I heard about your book Quirkyalone. I felt for the first time that being quirky AND alone (which is my preferred state) is okay. I am 67, attractive, busy, and fortunately healthy. I married in 1970 and divorced in 1976. I have had many long-term relationships over the years and found them all a struggle. I revel in being alone and feel stronger because of it. I am a mother of two, and grandmother of two. That being said, I am saddened by your recent turn toward Quirkytogether. I was hoping for more discussion re being alone and truly happy that way.
Perhaps things have happened in your own personal life which have changed your focus. And that is wonderful if that is working for you. I wish I had gotten to know you sooner when you were truly Quirkyalone.”
Sasha responds: Thanks for sharing your story with me. Let me be clear. I’m still truly quirkyalone! Whether I’m single or partnered, I consider myself quirkyalone. Quirkyalone stands for freedom for all of us to create the lives that most suit us. The essence of quirkyalone is that you don’t date simply out of social obligation or convention. The quirkyalone movement has always stood up to say that our experience can be rich when we are single or coupled.Read More
Future boyfriends: take note. When we kiss your kisses must be gluten-free. As a newly diagnosed celiac, I am entering into dating terrain that few can imagine. And I am just making sense of it in writing this post.
Celiac is an autoimmune condition triggered by even the most minute amount of gluten. Gluten is a protein found in barley, rye, (most) oats, and wheat. Think bread, and think of a thousand other products. I can’t eat a bread crumb (or a tiny amount of bread, beer, pizza, soy sauce, fake crab, gluten-containing ice cream). Gluten is in an amazing array of products, and the possibility of cross-contamination makes many products unsafe.
Navigating life as a celiac is complicated, especially in the United States where the FDA is three years late issuing even minimal guidelines to manufacturers on safe limits for “gluten-free” products. I’ve blogged about this issue on the Huffington Post. This issue is even trickier when it comes to dating. Guess what? You can get contaminated from kissing someone who has eaten gluten (and that scenario would be quite common on a date, all it takes is a swill of beer!).
Normally we save awkward conversations about “safe sex” to later in the relationship. But for a celiac it’s critical to talk about “safe kissing.”
Most celiacs posting in forums are married or already have committed partners. So they have only one person to educate. But it’s an entirely different situation if you are meeting someone new. I’ve had one date so far where I didn’t spend half the date talking about celiac. The guy went in for a kiss and I had to brush him aside telling him we would have to wait until we had talked about celiac. He was clearly confused. Later I sent some links.
I’ve googled extensively to find out whether celiacs get sick from kissing someone who has consumed gluten, and although research hasn’t been done on the effects of saliva on gluten, the consensus from the field in forums is yes. Kissing is not something I am going to give up, but getting sick is also not OK; for me, it means being a zombie for a week and over time dramatically increasing risks of getting cancer, osteoporosis, and other autoimmune disease.
Here are the most common tips:
*ask your date to brush his or her teeth before kissing you
*ask your date to not consume anything containing gluten for a few hours before kissing
*ask your date to rinse with water before going in for a smooch
*if you’re dating a woman, ask her to wear gluten-free lipstick
*if you’re dating a man, ask him to brush gluten crumbs from his moustache!
Spontaneous, no? Sweet and romantic? Yes. Being celiac and defining your needs means your date has to value you to kiss you.
Here’s looking forward to some passionate gluten-free kisses. Step one in this video is also to brush and floss. And hey, it’s never a bad idea to brush and floss.
Note: I wrote this post a year ago while I was still in the United States (and not traveling in South America), but realize that it should have been posted all along, so here it is! At the end is a postscript written from the perspective of my year traveling outside the U.S.
On a recent work trip to New York, the same conversation came up over and over again. People who didn’t know about Quirkyalone kept telling me that dating in New York was brutal. I was sort of shocked. I am so used to complaining about the brutality of dating in San Francisco and have become quite self-conscious about my complaints, wondering if it’s just me complaining or creating my own reality with a negative outlook. I was psyched, in a way, to cede the floor to another legion of people telling me how brutal it was to date in their town.
San Francisco is a city with an embarassment of riches in terms of the dating pool, but somehow, with so many people to choose from, we develop an ADD mentality.
It’s a disposable dating culture. we meet people online or off, go out, make out or sleep together (maybe), and may never speak again. It’s on to the next person without acknowledgment of the conversation or the kiss or the sex, or the promises made of how what we would do in the future. I have been complaining about the brutality of disposable-dating in San Francisco for a while now. I’m not saying that I am blameless in this regard either, whatever that would mean. I am simply pointing out that we have a consumer mentality when it comes to dating.
Perhaps this is just the nature of dating, but I can’t help but believe that online dating, in the way it dramatically increases the possibilities for easily meeting someone new, makes us treat each other more disposably. We operate outside the constraints of a moral community of friends and family, and it’s so easy to disappear into the ether, only to cross each oher when you see each other “online now” on match.com.
So imagine my surprise and satisfaction on a recent trip to New York City to hear people complain even more vociferously about the struggle of dating in their own city. Listening to people tell me unsolicitedly how hard it was to date in New York, I thought, Wow, maybe it’s actually worse here! In fact, one man in his mid-thirties, CEO of his own company, told me he was moving to San Francisco because he couldn’t find “l’amour” in New York. (He was French.)
Here’s a snapshot of what I heard. Much of the discussion focused on Manhattan. It’s easy to talk about one slice of New York and think you’re talking about all of it.
A married woman who writes about dating for Yahoo interviews singles for a living¬¨‚Ä† says that people date differently in Manhattan. She used to live in San Francisco. They’re more driven and businesslike in their approach to dating in New York, she said. They make quicker judgments. (Gosh, I thought people made snap judgments here?) She believe that the New Yorker driven nature makes it harder for people to mate, but it is a fun place to be single because people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s have so much company.
An entrepreneur in his thirties told me women judge quickly on the basis of his wallet. He told me they try to suss out his economic status, subtly or not: Does you have roommates? He also thought that women in New York weren’t very interested in sex, only money. I thought New York had more sexual energy than San Francisco. Most people I know in Brooklyn say it’s easy to find someone to sleep with, and hard to find a guy who will buy you a drink.
A writer friend concurred that his dating life had slowed down in New York. He said New York can encourage a feeling of inadequacy, that there’s always someone who is more impressive. He concurred that there’s a velvet ropes kind of feeling in Manhattan, people always peering in to find someone more successful, richer, more beautiful. He also thought the geography of the city makes romance awkward. When you end a date, you say goodbye on the street or at a subway stop. You don’t get to make out in a car or a living room!
What to make of all of this?
The common theme in the complaints I heard in New York seemed to boil down to economics. That people are always looking for someone with more money. It made me reflect back on San Francisco, that people are always on a quest for a better fit, but just as often, to find¬¨‚Ä† someone who’s a little more extraordinary and genius, an entrepreneur, an artist, somehow visionary and special. I remember a French guy telling me that his American friend who worked at Google felt that way, that women always wanted someone more extraordinary. That might have a ring of truth to it.
What can we do to combat the disposable dating syndrome? One word: acknowledgment. Even if you don’t have the patience or desire to get to know someone, at least you can acknowledge your date’s existence with an email, or heaven forbid, a phone call. You can not simply disappear. You can tell them one thing you liked about them even if you are not a romantic match.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, and frankly, I’m writing this final paragraph now after a year of traveling and distance from San Francisco. I’ve decided I don’t want to participate in online dating at all because of the consumer mentality that inevitably develops. But I’m open to hearing your ideas about how to lessen the brutality of the online dating game. How do you handle it if you go out with someone once and then decide it’s not a (potential) fit? Please share in the comments.
Have you ever gotten sucked into something that you were also ashamed to read? It happened to me yesterday. I was listlessly checking my email when I noticed a text ad that I must have seen more than 10,000 times. “How to catch and keep a man.” Those ads are as oddly ubiquitous as the text link ads for Acai Berry Wonder Diets, but I always assumed that ads with links like “Why Men Withdraw and What to Do About It” were for women who are more pathetic and malleable than me. Yesterday I joined the masses. And let me tell you. I became sickly fascinated. And angry.
I was vulnerable to that horrible ad because I recently heard something along the lines of “I’m just looking for something casual.” Somehow I find that impossible not to take personally. I clicked on the link–“The Ten Most Dangerous Mistakes Women Make”–and found myself swimming through simple, one-sentence direct-mail style paragraphs, like:
“Have you ever slept with a guy very quickly after meeting him, but as it started to happen you got that sinking feeling in your stomach? You knew it was a mistake, but you did it anyway. And then the thing you KNEW would happen actually happened: He unexplainably disappeared from your life. Honestly, have you ever had this happen?”
Of course, the worst part wasn’t that it happened, but that you KNEW you shouldn’t have done it in the first place… but you did it anyway.
Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.